Bollywood No Longer Worrying About Piracy As Studios Keep Setting New Records At The Box Office

from the look-at-that dept

For years, India was held up as a country that just didn’t respect copyright law at all. We’d heard the stories about how widespread piracy was for all kinds of content. However, as we’d seen elsewhere, the claims that piracy was somehow “killing” the industry didn’t really hold up under scrutiny. In fact, the Indian movie market (Bollywood) continued to grow massively and to thrive, even as piracy was rampant. That certainly seemed to contradict the old claim that infringement kills the incentives for content creation. And now, according to the Economic Times, many Indian studios have more or less stopped even talking about “piracy” because the box office is booming. The secret? It shouldn’t be a surprise, since it’s exactly what people have been talking about for years: making the authorized versions of the content more widely available more quickly in a variety of formats, thereby cutting off one of the main reasons why people seek out infringing copies:

A few years ago, theatre releases were limited to tier-I and tier-II cities due to high costs of prints. It took between three months and a year for a film to be released elsewhere. Consequently, films reached television and home video only after six months of a theatrical release. Pirates gleefully filled that vacuum by bombarding consumers with cheap optical discs….

Not anymore. The brightest stars of the Rs 100-crore constellation are theatres and prints…. Digital prints, which cost one-fifth of analog prints, have facilitated the swift reach of movies across the country.

There’s an infographic that shows most movie releases in 2011 were shown on about double the number of movies screens as similar movies just the year before. That’s a massive increase in availability for theater showings. As for the home market, while it still competes with pirated copies, quality seems to be winning:

According to Dwyer, the better-off who earlier paid to have high-quality cinema systems at home are no longer interested in poor quality (pirated) copies. “The quality of DVDs and Blu-ray discs is excellent with extra features and at a reasonable price.”

While the article still says that there’s a lot of infringement going on, it’s just fading into the background for the most part, especially given the record-setting revenue numbers.

For one, producers are happy with the current box-office fortunes. There is also no evidence to show big hits suffering from online piracy. On the contrary, data crawls suggest that the most downloaded films are nearly always the biggest hits, according to Lawrence Liang of Bangalore’s Alternative Law Forum, one of the authors of the India chapter of the Media Piracy report.

And, thus, the studios have finally realized that paying more attention to improving the authorized market is probably more important than “stomping out piracy.”

What has really changed is the focus on piracy. As the case of AACT shows, the struggles against pirates are few and far between to make even news, leave alone act as a deterrent. “The tendency has been to focus always on the numbers we are capturing rather than looking at leaked markets,” says Uday Singh, managing director, MPDA.

Of course, the article is still full of dire warnings about how the studios need to stay vigilant or everything might fall apart, but that seems based on random hyperbole, rather than any actual evidence.

None of this should be even remotely surprising. For years we’ve been pointing out that if you make works available, make them convenient and reasonably priced, and stop treating your customers like criminals, people will pay. Sure, there will always be some piracy, but those people are unlikely to pay no matter what, for the most part, and you just need to stop worrying about them and focus on giving more fans more reasons to actually pay. It appears that India is an example of a place where that’s actually happening.

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Comments on “Bollywood No Longer Worrying About Piracy As Studios Keep Setting New Records At The Box Office”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I barely ever download movies anymore after Netflix. Granted I barely ever go to the cinema as well but that’s only due to the extortion-level prices, lack of comfort (kids yelling, idiots using their cell phones and so on) and others. I’m also ditching movie channels on cable. If HBO and those channels that have their own productions are smart they’ll offer their stuff for reasonable prices and jump into the future. While they don’t I’ll download their stuff when I feel the urge to watch (no, really, the last 5 series I got in usb sticks from my friends, which is quite amusing when you see stuff like 3/6-strikes trying to stop piracy).

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, if you are patient you can get 1080p quality stuff. I am pretty patient myself, I can wait a HD version to pop up in the torrent scene 😉

The worst part is that I’m not interested in pirating movies anymore, regardless of if I have access or not. As much as I’m not interested in going to the cinemas too (at least not the main chains that display mostly Hollywood stuff). Same with MAFIAA produced music. As I see it now it’s the worst case scenario for them: they lost relevance.

Prashanth (profile) says:

More theater perspective

Being of Indian descent and having been there to visit a few times now, here is what I can add to this:
1. Air conditioning (AC) is expensive to have in the home, and it gets really hot there. Most movie theaters have AC. Therefore, people will go to the movie theater to watch movies but also to be able to escape the heat and stay for a while in an AC place; this is also why Bollywood movies are really long and elaborate, and why people go multiple times to watch the same movie in the theater much more so than in the US.
2. The police are easy to bribe. It’s probably pretty easy to make sure that you don’t get in trouble if you’re caught possessing a pirated copy of a movie.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: Like What Happened in the United States Ninety Years Ago.

Well, that is pretty much what happened in the United States in the 1920’s and 1930’s, especially in the American South. Birth of a Nation (1915) and Gone With the Wind (1939) were the two original “cult films.” Of course, I should tell you that there is a danger. When you set out to mobilize the sentiment of the bottom third of the ethnic majority population, especially in a poor country where people have gone without things for a long time, this may result in the emergence of a grass-roots terrorist organization, such as the American Ku Klux Klan.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yet another report shows that more convenience (for the consumer), more availability and more reasonable prices do more to fight piracy than inquisition-style copyright enforcement.

How many more of these do we need to convince our “leaders” that the giant media corporations are full of shit when they come with their stories of imminent doom?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Such evidence would only matter if profit were their main, or even primary concern. It’s not. What they are really after is control. Control of the product, control of the distribution channels for the product, and control of any potential competition that might pop up.

Things like ‘lost profits’ and ‘piracy’ are simply excuses they use to justify their actions in a manner that the politicians can get away with publicly agreeing with.

The Real Michael says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you think about it, piracy is the best thing that ever happened to Hollywood. Despite their massive earnings, they can always portray themselves as the hapless victims of piracy in Washington, thus giving politicians the excuse needed to grant themselves ever-increasing protectionism and control/censorship powers. The real kicker is that they force the taxpayers to fund this entitlement machinery, then turn around and use it to further their own monopoly by means of censorship, takedowns, extortion…

Milton Freewater says:

Also true here in the U.S.

“For one, producers are happy with the current box-office fortunes. There is also no evidence to show big hits suffering from online piracy. On the contrary, data crawls suggest that the most downloaded films are nearly always the biggest hits”

Gosh, that’s also true here in the U.S.

So why the difference in perspective?

The most obvious answer is that U.S. media reps are lying about the effects of piracy to support an unspoken agenda.

“The police (in India) are easy to bribe. It’s probably pretty easy to make sure that you don’t get in trouble if you’re caught possessing a pirated copy of a movie.”

In America, it’s legal to possess a pirated copy of a movie, whether it’s a digital file or a DVD.

Zos (profile) says:

“According to Dwyer, the better-off who earlier paid to have high-quality cinema systems at home are no longer interested in poor quality (pirated) copies. “The quality of DVDs and Blu-ray discs is excellent with extra features and at a reasonable price.”

bwahahaha! no one pirates crappy cams. no one watches dvd extras. i can pull a dvdrip copy usually weeks before they’re even available for purchase, the quality is nearly always spotless. (or at least as good as i’m willing to give up HD space for, dvdrip is just fine for most, 720 and 1080 are just memory hogs.).

Zos (profile) says:

Re: Re:

top clarify, while i consider myself a proud pirate, there’s plenty of things i do pay for. 2 netflix accounts to cover all the devices used by 5 people in the family. spotify premium so we can can listen across platforms. (i’d pirate music, but thinking about i haven’t actually needed to in like ten years, the artists i listen to work with fans).

I’d pay for onlive for games if it weren’t shit. and might yet after we get our ouya in april.

and last but not least, we buy concert tickets, and when we get there we buy schwag, from performers we like. we go see musicals. we go to conventions and buy authors schwag, we buy them drinks, etc.

I support content creators, but i’ll dance on the grave of the gatekeepers.

anonymouse says:


Theaters should have realized by now that although movie content is important the actual experience is what people are prepared to pay their crazy prices for.

Why are all cinemas not imax theaters, come on that is an experience that is worth paying for , especially if they had more interactivity with weather effects and smellovision.

Although a good movie is necessary if you have fantastic cinematography and sound and some extras the movie can be average and still get great reviews for the experience.
The movie monopoly has not invested in innovating the moviegoer experience , which is sad, by now we should have had much better 3d and a cinema should have wrap around screens that immerse everyone much more into the movie. Where is the interactivity , possibly voting on things happening in the movie, where is the moving seats or vibrating seats and smellovision and rain or smoke effects.

The monopoly has prevented any innovation in this area, but hopefully piracy will fore them to do something to make the experience more than what it is now.

Indiagrt says:

yes as a Indian am proud that bollywood is doing right thing and reaping the profits for films even for the shitty film like ek tha tiger… good but i hope our other Indian industry like sandalwood,tollywood,kollywood. too follow the foot steps of bollywood..and regional film industries can not cry about piracy…and one more if u want more profits and less piracy then stop charging extra bent amount for multiplex and theaters… so people like me can go to theaters watch movies…….until then you can not stop or reduce piracy of movies and music…

Corwin (profile) says:

One more proof

that movies don’t need copyright. AT. ALL.

Suppose a movie that costs $100M. The reasonable expectation is that it makes twice its budget back within the opening weekend, and if it doesn’t, then the studio deems it a failure that doesn’t warrant sequels.

Also, the theaters earn zero money on those opening weekend tickets, at least in the US. The distributors sell the rights to exploit the movie, that is, earn money on sweets and sodas, but the whole ticket price goes to the studio. Then in the following weeks, the theater operators may keep a fraction of the ticket price that increases over time.

This means that movies, with their possibly huge up-front cost, have been entirely paid for, and have paid for the work of everyone involved in making them within two days, but the studios demand to have their “precious work” protected by copyright for a century.

This is ridiculous. We the Internet KNOW this and act accordingly. Our “flat-rate media distribution service that allows unrestricted access to everything ever recorded” is called Bittorrent, and the (somewhat) flat access price is your ISP bill.

Producers have a right to make money, sure. Serve a market and you’ll earn money, it’s that simple. Compete. SELL THINGS. Sell “convenient access” to content, not “licenses to watch it once on one device within one day and without supplementary eyeballs”. Disney doesn’t need a hundred years long copyright, they need a new Mickey Mouse every two years to keep their mascot fresh.

There is no need for copyright, at all, for anything, ever. Ideas are naturally public property for anyone able to make any use of them, because humans’ best evolutionary advantage is the ability to pass behaviors to other humans without having to breed them into the genes over hundreds of generations. This means that any sort of obstacle to the free flows of ideas is a crime against humanity. It also means that disagreeing with that amounts to deny evolution, or, insanely, trying to forbid using our most useful evolved trait.

It’s terrifying, because it means that what companies own is more important to society than the fact that actual people are human. It belies a societal philosophy where citizens are companies, and people are commodities.
That future is “Life for Rent”, individuals being nothing but money faucets to be swayed by propaganda saturation to direct the flow towards one or the other corporation, receiving overpriced, castrated, shiny gadgets (that you don’t own and thus may not modify in any way) in exchange for subscriptions paid with compound-interest credits.

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